Saturday, October 15, 2005

Thought Game 3 Was Important? On to Game 4

I could have been happier with tonight's 5-2 victory over the Angels, but not much. The Sox did exactly what I had hoped - got an early lead off of Lackey to take the pressure off of Garland. The Sox are now 5-2 against the Angels this year when they score first (they are a disturbing 1-5 when they do not score first). They were patient against Lackey, waited him out, and forced him to throw 83 pitches in just 5 innings. Despite the 9 strikeouts, the Sox were not chasing pitches like they had in Games 1 & 2. And they had 11 hits - plus several other hard outs like Rowand's hit in the 3rd - to show for it.

The "could have been happier" reservation goes to only a couple of things. First, the Sox used Garland for 118 pitches, meaning that if the series goes to Game 7 - and I fervently hope the Sox can win it before then - he will be coming off of a heavy work load game. I actually thought that Cotts should have faced Finley and Kennedy in the 8th, and then Jenks the 9th. By contrast, Lackey will be coming off of an 83-pitch outing in Game 7 and should be well rested. Let's hope it does not come down to that.

Second, I really wish the Sox could have converted a few more scoring opportunities. Rowand's liner in the third was disappointing, but it was a hard knock. I was really bummed out by the Sox's inability to score in the 8th inning off of Brendan Donnelly after they had Dye on 3rd and Konerko on 1st with nobody out. That 6th run - which would have made it a grand slam lead - would have been the final nail in the Angels' coffin. Yet Everett looked bad in striking out and Rowand hastily hit into a double play to kill the rally. Argh. The Sox cannot fail to execute throughout the playoffs. You just can't leave a runner stranded on third with no outs.

Still, there was much joy in the SuperNoVa household when Guerrero's liner to right (only his second hard hit ball in the series) nestled into Dye's glove.

Game 4, as usual, scares the ever living crap out of me. Ervin Santana absolutely dominated the White Sox in a 4-0 shutout on May 23rd - he allowed 5 hits and only 1 walk. That was from a guy who otherwise allowed about 9 hits and 3 walks per 9 innings. His confidence is high from his Game 5 performance against the Yankees. Santana is 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA at home. I expect nothing other than Santana to be tough as nails tomorrow, and that the Sox will have to work very hard to get runs. And you can be sure that the Angels will come out loaded for bear against Freddy Garcia, a former AL West pitcher that they know VERY well. Sure, Freddy has a great road record and a great career record at Anaheim Stadium, but he looked shaky against the Red Sox, walking 4 guys and giving up 3 homers. I expect Game 4 to be tough. Once again, it will be critical for the Sox to get out in front early, and I would hope that they can rattle Santana by taking 2 or 3 walks in the first inning and push a run or two across.

On another note, SuperNoVa's wife quite astutely picked up on the subtle bias of the Fox announcing crew. She noted (as I had not) that the announcers were quick to say that White Sox hits were Angel pitcher's mistakes, instead of good hitting by the White Sox. That was true on both Podsednik's first inning single and Konerko's homer. They did give a lot of credit to Garland, but I did note a tendency to either praise the Angels and to fail to give credit to the White Sox. Subtle, but there.

Totally unrelatedly, I think Lou Piniella is something of a disaster as a second color analyst in the Fox booth when it comes to commenting on the game being played ("That's a good point" is about as good as it comes, besides reciting platitudes about scoring first, hanging breaking balls, etc.). That said, I've actually found myself laughing at Piniella's jokes and anecdotes on numerous occasions. I'd love to be around Piniella when he talks baseball sometime, especially if he did not have to sensor himself for the FCC. My guess is that somebody at Fox asked around what "character" would be good to be a third man in the booth, and someone suggested Piniella. By the way, Lou Piniella had a career .293 average, but only a .333 OBP. Ugh, take a walk, Lou.

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